Whitworth scored the final 17 points of the game en route to a 38-28 win over the Pacific University football team on Saturday afternoon in Forest Grove.
The Boxers (4-6, 4-3 NWC), who were hoping to send out its 15 seniors and head coach Keith Buckley away with a win, went back and forth with the visitors from Spokane in the first half and built a 28-21 halftime lead.
The Pirates (6-3, 5-2 NWC) outgained the Boxers, 477-384, in the win. Whitworth quarterback Leif Ericksen completed 23 of 44 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown. But, it was backup quarterback Connor Johnson in a Wildcat format, who accounted for three rushing touchdowns in the win – two of which came in the second half for the win. Brayden Corona was the top ground carrier on the day with a 19-rush, 114-yard effort with a touchdown in the win. Ericksen found nine-different receivers in the win.
Whitworth took the opening kickoff down the field, scoring on a two-yard run by Connor Johnson. The big play was the first one from scrimmage when Ericksen connected with a Andrew Meredith on a 41-yard pass play.
The Boxers offense answered with its version of the Harris brothers, who moved Pacific down the field. Junior quarterback Kenyon Harris completed his first three passes and three rushes by junior running back Joshua Harris moved the ball into the red zone. After a pass interference call on the Pirates brought the ball to the two-yard line. Two plays later, Josh Harris added to his single-season rushing touchdown mark with his 15th from four yards out to tie the game.
On the Pirates' ensuing possession, Pacific took its first lead of the afternoon after freshman linebacker Michael Timmerman got in front of an Ericksen pass. Five plays later, Josh Harris ran around the end and 62 yards later, he was in the end zone for the fifth-longest rush in program history.
Whitworth had an answer as they came back with a four play, 78-yard drive including a 41-yard pass and catch by Ericksen to Jerusalem To'oto'o. One play after the big play, Brayden Corona tied the game for the second time with a 11-yard touchdown run.
On the Boxers' ensuing possession after a career-long punt of 56 yards by senior Dillon Savage, the Pacific defense came away with its second takeaway of the afternoon when Koa Atkinson-Sioloa intercepted Ericksen.
The arm of Kenyon Harris moved the Boxers down the field and a crucial 4th and 3 conversion. Facing third and goal, Kenyon Harris found Kobe Williams for a four-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown reception was the 30th of the career from the senior from Las Vegas, who finishes his career as the school record holder in receptions with 200 and receiving yards with 2,860 and receiving touchdowns with 30. Williams, who wrapped up his Pacific career.
After a defensive stay on fourth down by the Boxer defense, Pacific added to its lead with a 12 play, 72-yard drive as the Boxers' returned to its bread-n-butter / the Harris brothers. The drive ended with Kenyon Harris connecting with Ty Hargis for an 11-yard touchdown reception that put Pacific ahead 28-14 with 1:39 left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, a 32-yard kickoff return by Corona set up a 11 play, 60-yard drive over the next 1:39 cut the visitors halftime deficit to 28-21 as Ericksen connected with Nick McGill on a 3-yard pass play on 4th and goal.
To start the second half, it was the Pirates defense who gave the visitors a jolt of momentum. Needing one yard for a first down, the Whitworth defense stopped the Boxers on third and fourth down to regain possession. The momentum carried over to the offense, who went nine plays and 63-yard to tie the game at 28 on a Connor Johnson rush and for the third time on the day.
The visiting defense forced a three and out of the Boxers and Whitworth added to its lead on a 22-yard field goal by Campos-Olivero for a 31-28 lead with 4:46 left in the third quarter.
The game remained a single possession until the Pirates added the final points of the contest, late in the fourth quarter after another strong defensive effort. To gain possession of the ball, Whitworth stopped Pacific on 4th down with 3:22 to go. Early in the drive on 3rd and 5, RudyJay Keopuhiwa sacked Kenyon Harris as the Boxers were marching down the field. The sack moved the Boxers out of field goal position.
After stopping Pacific on fourth down, the Pirates went five plays and 63-yards for the final margin as Connor Johnson scored his third touchdown of the afternoon from 10 yards out.
The game marks the end of the season for both teams and for Pacific head coach Keith Buckley, he leaves the Boxer football program tied for second with Hall of Fame head coach Frank Buckiewicz Sr. in program history in all-time wins with 40. Buckley, who will transition to athletic director, will hand the reigns of the program over to Ian Falconer, who has been an assistant in the program since Buckley and Pacific returned to the gridiron in 2010.